Antonio Conte must use managerial mettle to make up for Chelsea's transfer shortcomings

Now that the transfer window has closed, it merely opens up another challenge for the clubs, and one that is really much more fascinating in proper football terms than the facile sensationalism of the market.

The men in charge actually have to ‘manage’ - in the truest sense of the word. They have to make do with what they’ve got, try to maximise the resources available to them. How they tackle that, and how they think about that, may be much more decisive this season than how much they’ve spent.

That alone also reflects one of the contradictions of this window and - if you wanted to wax philosophical about it - one of the underlying woes of overbearing wealth. The Premier League has never spent so much money, but there are very few managers completely content with their business, and none of the richest six are. All of the latter have issues to solve and problems to fix through their own hands-on management, if they are to really progress and over-perform this season.

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For his part, Antonio Conte has already proven he can handle that supremely. The Italian also led the way in showing that such tactical innovation is the true trump strength in the mega-money modern Premier League, by mostly winning the title through that kind of influence last season. It is no exaggeration to say that his late-September switch to three at the back may be the most influential mid-season coaching decision that the English top division has seen. The effects of it were that resounding. The frustration for Conte now is that the rewards were not resounding, at least in terms of bolstering his side.

He could have justifiably thought one of the extra benefits of winning the league like that in his first season would be full backing in the transfer market, to get as close to everything he wanted as was realistic.

Conte what he could do once the window closed a year ago (Getty Images)
Conte what he could do once the window closed a year ago (Getty Images)

That did not come close to happening so, for the second season in a row, Conte will have to make do. You could understand his frustration with that. If the fundamental challenge is the same, though, the specifics of it are different.

Whereas last season’s problems were in terms of having the personnel for the desired system, he now has the system for the personnel, but just doesn't have enough of them.

The difficulty is with depth. He must ensure that Chelsea maintain the same momentum in a more demanding season, where he simply won’t be able to get the same use out of the same key players.

It feels a particular issue up front and at wing-back, and he is going to have to be just as creative for the games when he can’t play Alvaro Morata or one of his three main wide-men.

Klopp has work to do to keep Liverpool challenging (Getty)
Klopp has work to do to keep Liverpool challenging (Getty)

Jurgen Klopp must overcome the same problem, but the addition of Mohamed Salah means the loss of even two of his attackers won’t be as crippling as it was last term. He has not added to that defence, though, so is staking a lot on his team’s fundamental in that it means he is banking on the side continuing to score more than they concede. There is also the remaining issue of how Liverpool cope with lesser sides who sit back.

Jose Mourinho meanwhile must just keep his team scoring. While United have been impressively free-flowing in their three games so far, it shouldn’t be overlooked that - bar the victory over an atrocious West Ham United - that was largely when they gone ahead and matches had open up. It remains to be seen whether they will be quite so incisive in those tighter games that cost them last season.

Pep Guardiola’s problem is the opposite in that he could do with a defensive midfield that tightens games, while Mauricio Pochettino needs to add a bit more poise to Tottenham Hotspur’s power.

Arsene Wenger meanwhile has a range of issues, as well as the root question of his own struggles to adapt despite the recent move to three at the back.

It goes right through the league, from Frank De Boer looking to impose a system on players unused to it to Rafa Benitez now having to deal with what he's been left with.

The bottom line, now that no one can spend until January, is that all of these issues - as well as any other problems that arise - have to be solved on the training pitch, in the manager’s office; somewhere other than the market.

For the next few months, at least, it is no longer about who can spend the most but who can innovate the most. As with last season, that will say a lot more about the managers than just going out and getting the best player available.

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